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ISCApad #194

Monday, August 04, 2014 by Chris Wellekens

6-39 (2014-06-05) Thesis grant in Neurophysiological Investigation of prosodic cues.... Univ. Toulouse II -III, F

Subject : « NEUROPROS- Neurophysiological Investigation of prosodic cues processing by monolingual French and Spanish speakers, and bilingual speakers (French-Occitan and French-Spanish) »

Supervisors: Barbara Köpke, Denis Fize, Corine Astésano, Radouane El Yagoubi

Host Laboratories:

U.R.I Octogone-Lordat (EA 4156), Université de Toulouse II

CERCO (UMR 5549), Université Paul Sabatier - Toulouse III

Discipline: Linguistics

Doctoral School: Comportement, Langage, Education, Socialisation, Cognition (CLESCO)

Scientific description of the research project:

The project falls within an eminently interdisciplinary approach (linguistics, cognitive

neuropsychology and neurosciences) aiming at studying prosodic cues processing by

monolingual and bilingual French speakers. French is a language with so-called post-lexical,

non-distinctive accentuation, contrary to languages like Spanish, Catalan or Occitan where

accentual patterns are represented in the lexical entry. These prosodic characteristics have

lead to consider French as a ‘language without accent’ (Rossi, 1980), which makes it difficult

for this language to be integrated in models of speech processing (Cutler et al, 1997) since

they are mostly based on the metrical and accentual characteristics of languages (Cutler &

Norris, 1988). Also, these prosodic characteristics are said to be responsible for some degree

of ‘stress deafness’ by French listeners in foreign languages (Dupoux et al, 1997, inter alia).

However, if one considers the French accentual system in all its complexity, taking into

account the interaction between the primary final accent and the secondary initial accent in

the marking of prosodic constituents (Di Cristo, 2000), it becomes possible to postulate a role

of French accentuation in speech segmentation and lexical access strategies (Bagou &

Frauenfelder, 2006). More particularly, the Initial Accent seems to play a predominant role in

the marking of prosodic constituents in French (Astésano et al, 2007) and it is clearly

perceived by naïve listeners (Astésano et al, 2012). Recent neuroimaging studies (EEG)

indicate that metric incongruity slows lexical access in French (Magne et al, 2007). More

recently, we showed in a MisMatch Negativity paradigm that French listeners can readily

discriminate stress patterns in French and that the Initial Accent is encoded in long-term

memory at the level of the lexical word in French (Aguilera et al, 2014).

It is now necessary to consolidate these results by extending our investigations to other EEG

paradigms and by adapting the protocols to fMRI, in order to more precisely describe the

neural substrates and the temporal dynamics of prosodic cues processing in French.

Furthermore, these processing strategies have been observed on monolingual speakers only.

Comparing the linguistic strategies of monolingual and bilingual speakers (French, Spanish

and/or Catalan monolinguals, French/Occitan – French/Spanish or French/Catalan bilinguals)

will not only allow us to considerably enrich our comprehension of lexical access

mechanisms in these languages with different prosodic systems, but also to observe the

influence of the use of several languages with different stress patterns on the perception and

processing of prosodic cues.

The selected candidate will benefit from a stimulating scientific environment: (s)he will

integrate the Interdisciplinary Research Unit Octogone-Lordat (Toulouse II : and will be co-supervised by Prof. Barbara Köpke, a specialist

on bilingualism, and by Dr. Denis Fize at the Research Centre on Brain and Cognition

(CERCO, Toulouse III), a researcher in Neurosciences and neuroimaging specialist. The

research will take place in the frame of a research group managed by Dr. Corine Astésano, a

specialist in prosody, and with Dr. Radouane El Yagoubi, a specialist of cognitive

neurosciences and psychology. The project is also connected to the French ANR research

project PhonIACog ( managed by Dr. Corine Astésano.


Aguilera, M. ; El Yagoubi, R. ; Espesser, R. ; Astésano, C. (2014). Event Related Potential investigation of Initial Accent

processing in French. Speech Prosody 2014, Dublin, U.K., May 20-23 2014 : 383-387.

Astésano, C.; Bard, E.; Turk, A. (2007) Structural influences on Initial Accent placement in French. Language and Speech,

50 (3), 423-446.

Astésano, C.; Bertrand, R.; Espesser, R.; Nguyen, N. (2012). Perception des frontières et des proéminences en français. JEPTALN-

RECITAL 2012, Grenoble, 4-8 juin 2012: 353-360.

Bagou, O., & Frauenfelder, U. H. (2006). Stratégie de segmentation prosodique: rôle des proéminences initiales et finales

dans l'acquisition d'une langue artificielle. Proceedings of the XXVIèmes Journées d'Etude sur la Parole, 571-574.

Cutler, A., & Norris, D. (1988). The role of strong syllables in segmentation for lexical access. Journal of Experimental

Psychology: Human perception and performance, 14(1), 113.

Cutler, A., Dahan, D., & Van Donselaar, W. (1997). Prosody in the comprehension of spoken language: A literature review.

Language and speech, 40(2), 141-201.

Di Cristo, A. (2000). Vers une modélisation de l'accentuation du français (seconde partie). Journal of French Language

Studies, 10(01), 27-44.

Dupoux, E., Pallier, C., Sebastian, N., & Mehler, J. (1997). A destressing “deafness” in French?. Journal of Memory and

Language, 36(3), 406-421.

Magne, C.; Astésano, C.; Aramaki, M.; Ystad, S.; Kronland-Martinet, R.; Besson, M. (2007) Influence of Syllabic

Lengthening on Semantic Processing in Spoken French: Behavioral and Electrophysiological Evidence. Cerebral Cortex

2007, 17(11), 2659-2668. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhl174.

Rossi, M. (1980). Le français, langue sans accent?. Studia Phonetica Montréal, 15, 13-51.

Required skills:

- Master in Linguistics, cognitive sciences, neuropsychology or equivalent

- Experience in experimental phonetics and/or linguistics, psycholinguistics,


- Skills in signal processing (speech, EEG, fMRI) required, and dedication to the

development of these skills is essential

- Experimental skills wished, as well as a yearning for contact with participants and

motivation for the recruitment of participants

- Autonomy and motivation for learning new skills

- Good knowledge of French and English; knowledge of Spanish, Catalan, Occitan an



- 1 684.93monthly gross (1 368net), 3 year contract


- Sending of applications: 27th june 2014

- Audition of selected candidates: 3rd july 2014

- Start of contract: 1rst october 2014

Applications must be sent to Corine Astésano (corine.astesano at and will


- A detailed CV, with list of publications if applicable

- A copy of grades for the Master’s degree

- A summary of the Master’s dissertation and a pdf file of the Master’s dissertation

- A cover letter / letter of interest and/or scientific project (1 page max.)

- The names and email addresses of 2 referent scientific personalities/ supervisors.

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